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Written Statement - How to measure a nation’s progress? – The national well-being indicators for Wales

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To make sure we are all working towards the same vision, the Act puts in place seven well-being goals.
Carl Sargeant, Minister for Natural Resources

In March 2015 the National Assembly for Wales approved the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015 helping place Wales on a more sustainable path towards achieving well-being. The act put in place 7 well-being goals for Wales. These were for a more equal, prosperous, resilient, healthier and globally responsible Wales, with cohesive communities and a vibrant culture and thriving Welsh language.

If we are to collectively achieve these well-being goals, we need a way of measuring, at a national level, what progress is being made. Therefore on 16 March I laid, a set of 46 national indicators as required by Section 10 of the Act. This is a requirement placed on the Welsh Ministers to administer but I have been clear from the start that these are indicators that measure the whole of Wales, and are not just for the Welsh Government.

These indicators must be referred to in the analyses of local well-being produced by public services boards when they are analysing the state of economic, social, environmental and cultural well-being in their areas. In our statutory guidance we also encourage public bodies to use the national indicators as part of their evidence when fulfilling their duties in the act.

The development of the indicators started in December 2014 with a commission to Public Policy Institute for Wales to advise on the development of the indicators. In October 2015 we published a draft set of 40 national indicators to gather views on whether these would help us understand, over time, what progress was being made in achieving the 7 well-being goals. We established 4 essential criteria to guide the development of the indicators. These were (i) keep the number short and manageable, (ii) make sure they are measures for the whole of Wales, (iii) they should be coherent and fit together, and (iv) the indicators must resonate with the public.

The laying of the national indicators represents a significant milestone in Wales’ application of the ground-breaking Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015. I would like to take this opportunity to thank the 175 stakeholders and individuals who responded to the public consultation, and those that either attended the consultation events or held conversations within their respective areas. I also want to thank the newly appointed Future Generations Commissioner for Wales who responded to the consultation.

The consultation has shown the challenge of finding a set of indicators that will tell us a story of life in Wales that can track our progress towards the Wales We Want described in the 7 well-being goals. There are a number of key themes that emerged through the consultation, and were raised by the Future Generations Commissioner for Wales and the other commissioners that I want to address here.

Equality - I want to ensure that the indicators can tell us, at the national level, a story of what is happening in Wales. To do this effectively we will need to know what this means for people with protected characteristics. This was a key theme in the response to the consultation and in response to this we have identified those national indicators which we believe will benefit from disaggregation by protected group, and included a new indicator on gender pay difference.

Children - In terms of the responses around ensuring we are capturing the well-being of children, we accept that this is important for understanding the well-being of future generations. We have confirmed in the final indicators that we will be measuring the mental well-being and healthy lifestyles of children, in addition to other measures that were already included such as those on education and the Welsh language. However, many of the areas of subjective well-being are captured through the National Survey for Wales which does not cover children, and it will be for the next government to consider options for how this can be collected in the future.

Collection - All of the indicators we have proposed will be collected at the national level – they will not place any additional burdens on local authorities or local health boards to collect new information to be reported at the national level. The Minister for Public Services has previously outlined our actions in response to the Commission for Public Service Governance and Delivery to look again at the performance management framework for public services.

The Future Generations Commissioner for Wales put forward initial ideas for the grouping of indicators, and advocated a headline set of indicators to improve how they are communicated. I agree that it is important that these national indicators resonate with the public and help paint a picture of Wales. I therefore believe that further work on this is needed, which can be tested by the next government when it looks to identify national milestones.

The national indicators will help but they cannot, and should not, be the whole picture of whether the goals are being progressed. The technical annex that we have published alongside the indicators details other areas of information and data that can be used when these indicators are being interrogated.

The Welsh Government would also like to thank ONS for their contributions and guiding us towards a robust set of indicators.

These are indicators for the whole of Wales.

I want to clarify that the national indicators are there to measure population changes, and are not designed to measure the performance of a specific public body, or a particular strategy/programme. There are other mechanisms in place to measure the performance of public bodes and as part of our work on public service reform these will be looked at. These national all-Wales indicators provide a new opportunity to go beyond simple GDP measures to provide a picture of Wales’ economy, society, culture and environment. These indicators should also be the concern for the National Assembly for Wales to assist the scrutiny process.

I would like to take this opportunity to remind members that the National Indicators are only one part of the act. It will be for the next government to establish national milestones in relation to the national indicators, and publish the first statutory Future Trends Report for Wales – giving us a better national evidence base on the trends that will affect the economic, social, environmental and cultural well-being of Wales in the short and long term.

We are at an important moment in realising our shared ambition for a sustainable Wales. These indicators will help. But it is the actions of those in the public bodies subject to the act, and other from businesses, the third sector and people and communities who hold the key to the change.